If you had the chance to build a community theatre in Qualicum Beach, what would it look like?
The Qualicum Beach Multi-Use Cinema Society has been advocating for a multi-use cinema in Qualicum Beach since 2018, and now they want to hear input from the public.
If all goes well, they hope to occupy part of the old bus garage site on the corner of Fern Road West and Memorial Ave in Qualicum Beach.
The society was recently awarded a $7,500 grant from the Regional District of Nanaimo to conduct a feasibility study, which would help determine the best model for Qualicum Beach.
Emma Bircham is an active member of the society. Alongside the feasibility study, she says the group is seeking thoughts and feedback from residents and local business owners.
“Just to connect, and to tell us what they’d like to see, and what experiences they’ve had of other cinemas that they’ve liked,” said Bircham. “That’s really going to make a difference.”
Anyone interested in donating time and money is also welcome to reach out. It’s a large undertaking, so the group encourages anyone interested to contact them and get involved. Bircham says that they will need volunteers to help run fundraisers in the near future.
They’re also keen to partner with local businesses.
The society’s work is still in its early stages, but the organizers have big plans.
They’ve been drawing inspiration from other B.C. community cinemas like those in Sidney and Salmon Arm, as well as researching successful models in other countries like New Zealand and England.
Bircham wants to stress that this would not be another blockbuster theatre, but rather a community hub where people of all ages can get together.
Their vision is to have a multi-screen cinema that would screen everything from new releases to independent and foreign films to documentaries. They also want the space to host a range of activities, including live music, community discussions and special events.
Some of their central ideas are to have family-friendly cafe off the lobby, as well as a wine bar showcasing local wine and craft beer.
They see Qualicum Beach as the perfect mid-Island hub for people en route to areas like Tofino or the Comox Valley. One idea is to play short films about Vancouver Island destinations for tourists to stop in and watch.
“Qualicum really is kind of at a fork in the road that we’ve never taken really advantage of as a village,” said Bircham. “It would be great if people could stop in and see, especially if it’s a rainy day, ‘this is what Tofino has to offer, this is what the North Island has to offer, come on up.’”
They also believe it would fill a host of social needs.
“In terms of the isolation that seniors experience in this area, that we know is pretty well-documented, it would help to meet that need,” said Bircham.
They also envision hiring high school students and hosting workshops for local schools.
The society currently has eight members, and was initiatially spearheaded by Evelyn Miller of Qualicum Beach and her son Alan Miller, who currently works in Los Angeles.
The group encourages people to get in touch as well as take their survey. All contact information, including access to the survey, can be found at www.qbcinema.org.